Should you give up on a sure thing for the possibility of a better thing?
Herman Edward Heckley is what anyone might call a manly guy. So what’s he doing fighting off taffeta in a bridal salon? He’s maid of honor for his best friend, Caroline Oakenfeld, in her wedding to a pencil-necked geek. But the closer he gets to the ceremony, the more he begins to wonder if he’s missing out. If only he were the type of person who could figure stuff out besides hammer and nails.
Caroline is the type of person who can figure stuff out, and she’s been in love with Heck forever. Frittering her life away until Heck wises up isn’t part of her life plan, and she agrees to marry her boyfriend. But the closer she gets to the ceremony, the more she realizes she has to resolve her feelings for Heck.
For better or for worse.
Tropes: This best friends to lovers romance contains an interrupted wedding, unrequited love, and a lovable blue collar hero.
***** EXCERPT *****
Herman Edward Heckley III batted the length of pink taffeta away from his face and tried not to snarl. It might be unseasonably cold outside, a shocking fifty-six degrees in Tennessee in May, but inside Jenkins Bridal, it was stifling. At least for Heck. The women involved in this shenanigan seemed as comfortable as hound dogs on a front porch.
“Forget it, Caroline,” he said to the bride-to-be. “I’m not wearing a dress at your wedding.”
Caroline fluttered her gunked-up eyelashes at him and grinned. “You have to admit, you’d look ravishing in light peach.”
Just in case Caroline was getting another stupid idea—the first being marriage to the pencil-necked asshole, as Heck fondly thought of him—he told her, “I already rented a tux.”
She frowned, like his efficiency disappointed her. “You did?”
“Soon as you told me the news.” He hadn’t, but he figured he’d use the tux all three Heckley brothers had worn to their high school proms. The year two of them had needed it, they’d wrestled for it, and the loser had had to wear khakis. Loser and date had broken up soon thereafter.
“They probably don’t have anything in size moose, anyway.” Jhi Yuan Caroline’s second-best friend, hovered behind the bride, sticking lace and flowers and shit in Caro’s piled-up brown hair. Caro, Heck, and Jhi, plus Caroline’s wedding planner, Sally Jones-Hammond, and Caroline’s roommate from college, Lisa something or other, lounged in a frilly, fluffy, white hell of a room in the two-story house on the square that had been converted into a bridal salon on one side and a real estate office on the other. The bridal shop’s owner, Mrs. Helen Jenkins, was locating more dresses for the ladies to try on.
Hundreds of dresses with lace and ruffles and glitter. Two hours of squealing and gossiping and him having to tell them every dress looked great and nobody’s butt looked big. They weren’t even kind enough to change clothes in front of him, which would have made the afternoon bearable, as far as Heck was concerned.
Instead, he was almost regretting he’d agreed to be Caroline’s maid, or man, of honor. But she was his best friend, and he figured it was the least he could do for the woman who’d supported him through so much.
“I know this wedding is sudden.” Caroline swiveled in her padded chair to include everyone in the conversation. “My mom may never forgive me.”
“Beatrice will get over it,” Heck said without conviction. Caro’s parents were no fonder of Pencil Neck than Heck was, and Caro’s mom hated fluff, too. Beatrice had taken Caro’s gran to the doctor today, her excuse for avoiding the choosing of the dresses.
The never-ending choosing of the dresses.
Heck had tried to convince Beatrice to switch places with him, but she’d turned him down flat. Not that dragging Gran to the specialist over in Memphis was a treat. The women in Caro’s family could be pains in the ass when they got their minds set on something.
Such as agreeing to marry a pencil-necked snot-rag who treated them like an afterthought.
“Mom might not get over it, but she does lighten up whenever I remind her Dan and I are paying for everything,” Caro said with a laugh. The wedding was local, in an old church also near the square. Since Dan had few relatives, most guests would be local, too, people from Tallwood Heck and Caro had known all their lives.
“Dan could have afforded a ring,” Heck muttered. Stinginess was only one of the reasons he disliked the guy. “You don’t marry somebody without giving them a damn ring.”
“I didn’t give him a ring, either,” Caroline pointed out, but her brow furrowed as she said it. “We all know how you feel about ancient patriarchal customs. You don’t have to lecture us on what a real man would do.”
He opened his mouth to have his say anyway, and Caro cut him off. “Quit interrupting me when I’m being mushy. I couldn’t have pulled this together without everyone’s help. The thing is, we…” She flicked a glance at him. “We might not be together as much in the future.”
No kidding. It was going to suck with Caroline in Atlanta, a several-hour drive from Tallwood and yet another reason Heck disapproved of the wedding. And the groom.
“We’ll manage,” Heck assured her, and himself. “You’ve lived outside Tallwood before and civilization didn’t go to your head.”
Plus, the first time she’d left, she’d come back to Tallwood. Where she belonged. She sure as hell didn’t belong in a city with a self-absorbed prick. What greenways and honeybees and wetlands was she going to save in a place that had already been concreted over?
Yes indeed, the more Heck thought about Caro getting married, the more reasons he added to his list of why Dan was a piece of crap. As her friend, it was his job to help her see it—before the wedding. Wasn’t it? Extracting yourself from an idiot move involving a preacher and the wrong spouse was a mess he’d only wish on a few of his worst enemies.
“I just want you all to know how much I appreciate your support,” Caroline finished.
“You can have my support anytime, cupcake.” Jhi whispered something in Caro’s ear while looking straight at Heck. “What I want to know is what Herman’s planning for the bachelorette party.”
“It’s a secret,” he told them gruffly, when in truth he hadn’t worked out the details yet. Tallwood had limited nightlife options, and it wasn’t warm enough for a swimming party at Bigboy Buffort’s lake house. Plus, it’s not like Caro had given anyone time to adjust to the fact that she was getting married. Pencil Neck had issued his whiny ultimatum to her after three years of lackluster dating—marry him or break up with him. To everyone’s shock, Caroline had agreed to the former. The sprint to the altar was because Pencil Neck had some business trip coming up and wanted the wedding out of the way before he left.
This whole thing was cockeyed if you asked Heck, but of course Caroline hadn’t. Which didn’t mean he hadn’t told her anyway. She’d promptly told him to shut it.
© 2013 Jody Wallace